Grammy Award Winning Singer/Songwriter Dan Zanes Makes Kids’ Music Cool Again

When you first meet singer/songwriter Dan Zanes, you might think that a wild and zany personality lies beneath that wild and zany hair. Think again. Dan Zanes is a thoughtful, humble man, so soft-spoken that you have to lean in to hear him well. Celebrity Parents met up with Dan at Jessy’s House of Styles in Brooklyn, where Dan got his first hair cut in 25 years! We were there to mark the occasion, and to chat with the gentle Grammy award-winning artist.

Dan, thanks for inviting us to witness your first haircut in 25 years!

It was a lot of fun! I would only do it for you!

[laughs] Thanks so much. It looks great! How did you pick Jessy’s place?

It always seemed like a great neighborhood place. And it’s in Brooklyn, where I live. I love Brooklyn; I talk about it all the time!

Dan, the younger set may know you from Dan Zanes and Friends, but many adults will remember you from the group, The Del Fuegos. 

Yes, I was a teenager when we formed The Del Fuegos. I did it for ten years. I wasted my youth, but it was a great way to do it!  After ten years, we had made four records and we traveled all over. It felt like we had reached our arc. Then, it started to go down. All the life went out of it, and we found that we weren’t able to connect with the audience.

What happened then?

I stepped back, and at that time, my daughter Anna was born. I was working on a solo record, and I was ready to go back to the pop scene. I wanted to find the updated version to the music that I had listened to as a kid. I wanted it to be music that would be good for both adults and kids. I went to the record store, and everything seemed very corporate, and I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I wanted to create old songs and new songs and draw from a variety of traditions. I wanted to include sounds that sounded like they were made in a house. That is how Rocket Ship Beach came to be. I would give it out to audiences during performances and people seemed to really like the music.


And now almost ten years later…

It has all been social and wonderful. We got invited to all these parties; I would bring my banjo to play. Our hope was that people would hear us and want to make their own music. Now, we are performing all over the world, from Australia, Spain, even to the Middle East. We’re so incredible lucky to be as visible as we have been. It’s our music on our terms.

I love the cover art that is on each of your CD’s.

Every time we make a CD, we think about the cover. We don’t want to skimp. We want people to sit down and give them something to look at. It’s the old-fashioned experience. You get to step into someone’s world when you look at the packaging.

Let’s talk about your charity and non-profit work. 

I’m involved with the Mario Batali Foundation. This organization brings breakfast to kids who are not eating before they go to school. A portion of the proceeds from our DVD release will go to the Foundation.  I feel the more successful we are, the more we can do. And we want to do a lot. We don’t want to have to worry about cash flow every month.

Now, your daughter Anna used to perform with you. 

Yes, but now she’s 14 and she’s not into it as much! She’s into ballet, and she dances almost every day. She plays the guitar. She’s a great, great kid.

 What projects do you have coming up?

I have a new CD coming out in mid-November called 76 Trombones. It has classic Broadway songs. We have some great people who collaborated with us, like Carol Channing, Matthew Broderick and Brian Stokes-Mitchell.

Throughout my career, I’ve wanted people to enjoy the music and to be inspired to make their own. That’s the joy of music. And that’s basically what I’ve done and what I’ll always do.


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